Granted, it's pretty rare these days for a Cabinet nominee to be unconfirmed; as happened to embattled UN Ambassador Susan Rice, controversial figures just don't get the nomination. But still, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, has drawn bipartisan criticism for his controversial stances on issues ranging from homosexuality to Iran--and yet the Senate is likely to confirm him, per one of its admittedly reluctant members:
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said on Sunday he believes former Sen. Chuck Hagel(R-Neb.) will be confirmed by the Senate as secretary of defense.
"I think Sen. Hagel will be approved," the Senate Armed Services committee member said on Fox's "Fox News Sunday." "I think the history of nominees shows and I think his own qualifications also demonstrate that he has the capacity."
Blumenthal did not move off his position that he is reserving his own judgment on Hagel until confirmation hearings
"I'm going to want to ask questions" about Hagel's views on Iran and Israel, for which he has drawn scrutiny, Blumenthal said. "I'm not comfortable yet."
So why did President Obama choose someone who's taking so much heat from both sides of the aisle? Two words, says Mark Steyn: defense cuts.
If the signature accomplishment of the president’s first term was Obamacare (I’m using “signature accomplishment” in the Washington sense of “ruinously expensive bureaucratic sinkhole”), what would he be looking to pull off in his second (aside from the repeal of the 22nd Amendment)? Hagel isn’t being nominated to the Department of Zionist and Homosexual Regulatory Oversight but to the Department of Defense. Which he calls “bloated.”
“The Pentagon,” he said a year ago, “needs to be pared down.” Unlike the current secretary, Leon Panetta, who’s strongly opposed to the mandated “sequestration” cuts to the defense budget, Hagel thinks they’re merely a good start.
That’s why Obama’s offered him the gig. Because Obamacare at home leads inevitably to Obamacuts abroad. In that sense, America will be doing no more than following the same glum trajectory of every other great power in the postwar era.
This is probably the most convincing theory I've seen on the matter. Given the loud concerns over lack of diversity in his administration -- from even those most stalwartly on the president's side -- it does seem strange that Obama would nominate a white man with a history of offending key constituencies. But clearly, he's taking the "more flexibility" comment to heart, and using this opportunity to stock his Cabinet with officials who will make cuts where it matters...to Obama, that is. If Hagel is willing to slash his own budget at the Pentagon, then who is the president to stop him? And with Obamacare stuck on the books, that's more helpful now than ever.